by Travis Mateer
I was taking a trip down memory lane the other day at the blog I used to contribute to, 4&20 Blackbirds. I plugged the name KRAKAUER into the search function and found several posts, including this one highlighting the shout-out jhwygirl got during the RAPE book that upset Missoula so.
I clicked on the link to read the medium piece where the accolades originated from and thought it might be timely for a reminder about what Krakauer was looking into a decade ago, and what kind of writers were helping him expose what he ultimately wrote about. Let’s get started!
It didn’t take long to realize there is a big problem in Missoula, and it seems to be emanating from the prosecutor’s office. What was interesting about Allison was — this was as slam-dunk a case as you can get, and she had to fight so hard. It was so traumatizing for her to get the prosecutors to take the case seriously and not just give the guy a slap on the wrist. And I thought how that was one of the more interesting parts of the book, to see how hard it is even in a case like that to get any kind of accountability, justice, retribution, whatever you want to call it.
It seemed obvious, then, that once I learned about Allison I should write about these series of assaults.
Yes, Krakauer came and wrote about the BIG problem with the criminal justice system in Missoula, and he wrote about where he thought the problem emanated from, but I’m here to tell you, dear readers, that Krakauer didn’t finish the job, so now I have a question: are we going to finish this ourselves, or does another national writer need to parachute in with a big time publisher to slap us around again because we don’t want to face up to what’s STILL FUCKING HAPPENING?
The echoes and parallels and repeat characters in the cases I have pin-balling around in my brain right now are almost too crazy to believe. I have to double check that I’m reading stuff from a decade ago and NOT notes from one my current journals. Let’s continue with Krakauer’s perspective on our CURRENT Head County Attorney, Kirsten Pabst (emphasis mine):
One of the things that Pabst did that bothered me, when she was cross-examining [David] Lisak (he was the expert witness talking about trauma, its effect on brain chemistry at the Jordan Johnson trial) she opened by pointing out: you were sexually assaulted, don’t you think that makes you…you’re on a crusade?
[Lisak] knows the defense attorney’s job is to do whatever they can to win and they have no compunction to cross the lines, but about a year later in his home I asked him about it, and he said that’s the first time a defense attorney ever brought up him being sexually assaulted himself.
While Pabst’s behavior here is disgusting, the reality is a victim is FORCED to approach the path to justice in Missoula AS IF on a holy crusade. Why? Because the path is so onerous and re-traumatizing, some victims probably come to view their original sexual assault as being LESS traumatizing than what Detectives and County Attorneys are STILL doing to survivors.
I’m not just making this up, I have a very specific case in mind, and very specific people who have said and done very specific, very documented things. And these people need a BIG dose of accountability to figuratively smack them upside the head before more people are unnecessarily hurt.
So, who helps bring that accountability? A decade ago it was an anonymous blogger by wrote under the pseudonym, jhwygirl, and this is what Jon Krakauer had to say about her back then (emphasis mine):
I gotta say since some of you are bloggers: I’m a big fan. I was able to get those posts [from Kirsten Pabst] because a blogger in Montana has this killer blog, and that’s where I got this. She archived them unofficially. She’s impressive. I have no idea how many readers/followers she has, but she’s this thorn in the side of Missoula county officials, and it’s people like her that keep them honest. I think it would be easy to ignore someone like that if you’re some official, or think you can ignore it, but you can’t, with the world as it is and the internet as it is.
It’s a sad indictment of legacy media that a blogger like jhwygirl, or myself, have to be the ones to call-out the arrogant wielding of power and to look at what is hiding behind the flailing. In Missoula what’s still occluded is disturbing.
While Lee Nelson’s murder trial is officially concluded, I learned what I needed to learn during the trial, and the work continues. If you appreciate what you’re learning from my work, please consider making a donation at my about page.
Thank you for reading.